Tag Archives: online storage

Linkstation Windows Printing Problem “Solved”

[edit: Coshy has kindly shared Windows 7 information on this; please see the comments for this post below.]

We have a Buffalo Linkstation Live NAS, model HS-DH500GL hanging off our home network serving personal files. The unit includes a print server. You hook up a USB printer, and it works. And for most of the first year, it was flawless.

Then, at some point in 2008, it stopped printing. Or, rather, it stopped printing from Windows. In the case of this particular printer, it’s shared on one local network here consisting predominately of Windows and Linux computers; the odd thing is that we could still print from any random Linux box we’d attach to the LAN. No PC running Windows would work any longer.

Linkstation-HSDH500GLAnd after probably two months of printing from Windows not working, it suddenly spit out some old stuck docs (roughly two months old or so–I know, right?) and started working again. And it worked again normally for many, many months.

Until a few months ago, when it stopped again. And this time, it’s shown no signs of coming back to life.

And once again, we can still happily print via Linux all day long, like there’s no problem at all. File server functionality (across all OSes that access it) is still totally fine as well.

Digging around, it seems it’s a pretty common problem. These devices (and not just our 500G model, it seems) apparently don’t handle Windows printing very well and, over time, eventually fall over, seemingly dead (from a Windows printing point of view). Documents seem to stick in a print queue somewhere. In our case, on any Windows machine we looked at, the Windows print queue always seemed to show as pending the last print job from whatever Linux box–a print job that we know has printed and been held in our hands.

So those stuck documents…are they really stuck? Attempts to empty spooler folders, restart print services on Windows, monkey with bidirectional-communications settings, etc… nothing worked. XP, Vista, made no difference. We have not tested this with Windows 7, but we assume the problem exists there as well, as it appears it’s a Buffalo/Linkstation problem, and not an issue with Windows itself.

The only apparent solution is to completely wipe everything from the Linkstation device (not just configuration info, but all of your data), monkey with setting the NAS software into a debug mode, and force-updating/overwriting the firmware to “reset” it completely. This resets everything. User data, user configurations, everything. We weren’t about to blow away the data or deal with moving it around if we didn’t have to. If that solution works for you, go for it. Sadly, even this extreme solution does not work for everyone.

We went a different route. Our workaround? Installing Print Services for Unix, under Windows. It’s dead-easy, assuming you have access privileges on your Windows machine, and here’s a Microsoft Knowledge Base (KB) article that tells you how:

Print Services for UNIX: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/324078

You’ll need to install this on each Windows machine that won’t print (likely all of them once this bug rears its head); it can be automated in the normal ways if you have a larger installed base of affected computers.

The normal way Windows users are told to connect to their Linkstation’s print server is via Network Neighborhood. You navigate to your Linkstation device, see the print server, right-click, and choose “Connect…”. That sets up a printer connection. You choose the driver or provide one, and you’re off to the races. If you don’t go that route, you can always add a printer via the Printers control panel and end up with the same result. Only, once it stops printing, good luck printing consistently that way ever again.

Follow the KB article instructions to get Print Services for Unix installed, then configure an LPR port as described, giving either LAN IP or name for your Linkstation, pointing drivers at it, and start printing again.

It doesn’t solve the problem of Windows printing directly, but it does pretty easily solve the more general–and ultimately more useful–“I just wanna print from Windows, but can’t” problem. Hopefully it works for you, too. We wanted to let this run for a few weeks or so without issue before writing it up; so far, so good.

And Buffalo, we shouldn’t have to say it…. but you might want to finally fix this long-standing bug in a way that doesn’t require people to pay for twice the archive/backup hardware they really need (buying another backup/archive solution as temporary or replacement storage altogether).

Windows Live SkyDrive (beta), Google both offering online storage

Microsoft is announcing the final product name for what was previously known as Windows Live Folders. Windows Live SkyDrive gets not only its final product name but also a few new features and enhanced user interface reflecting changes coming for many of the Windows Live services including Windows Live Spaces.

So what’s Windows Live SkyDrive? Windows Live SkyDrive is a new, currently-still-in-beta Windows Live service that gives users 500MB of web space for the online storing and sharing of files. Think of it as “a personal hard drive on the Internet”.

By default, you get several protected directories which you can store your files in. These directories are completed protected from the public. Only you can view them. However, Windows Live SkyDrive allows you create or choose specific folders to share with everyone (Public folders) or specific people on your Windows Live Contacts list. You can set specific permissions for those viewing your folders as well–such as someone who can contribute (add and remove files) or someone who is simply just a reader. Your Public folder allows ONLY reader permissions for the public in viewing files within the folder.

The service is free, but requires a Windows Live account which is also free; you can create your Windows Live account from the SkyDrive page if you don’t have a Live account already.

The overall integration of Microsoft’s Live services isn’t fabulous right now, honestly; the user interface can be downright confusing in places. That said, the SkyDrive service itself seems like a solid bit of online storage and filesharing space that could serve individuals and even some small businesses well.

Some caveats: there isn’t any Windows Explorer/Web Folder/Xbox Live integration of any sort(yet?), and currently, because SkyDrive is in beta, only users from the US, UK and India are able to participate and use it.

In related news, Google’s offering paid storage now as well; if you have a Google account, go here: Purchase Storage. Plans start at $20/year for 6GB, with larger plans ranging up to 250GB. Don’t forget that you already get 1GB with Picasa and nearly 3GB of space with Gmail for free.

The usual security and data protection caveats apply to any such services, of course; the value of your data to you and/or your business should ultimately determine your level of comfort with storing anything online anywhere.

[some SkyDrive portions shamelessly pilfered from windowsvistablog.com]